Maryland's defense withstood a record-setting 504-yard passing performance by Wake Forest quarterback Gary Schofield and the Terrapin offense had impressive statistics as well in a 45-33 victory over the Deacons today.
The Terrapins, 2-3-1 and 2-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, had been frustrated by good passing offenses four previous times this season. They seemed doomed again today as Wake, behind Schofield's NCAA record-tying 43 completions in 62 attempts, came from 14 points down to tie Maryland, 31-31, with 12:20 left in the game.
But Maryland quarterback Norman (Boomer) Esiason, who completed 14 of 22 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns, threw 24 yards to tailback John Nash at the one, setting up Mike Lewis' game-winning touchdown run with eight minutes left for a 38-31 margin. Maryland's secondary had three of its four interceptions in the fourth period to preserve the victory.
"We knew we could move the ball," said Esiason, who had an interception-free afternoon. "The offensive lineman were calling the plays in the huddle, we were so excited. The passing is great. I wouldn't mind passing 62 times if we won. But I'll take the balanced attack any day."
Esiason threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to John Tice with 4:26 left and Maryland punter Steve Adams took a safety with time running out for the final Deacon score.
The Terrapins had 258 yards rushing and 233 passing for 491 total yards. Esiason completed passes to five receivers and caught one for 13 yards from freshman reserve quarterback/tailback Stan Gelbough.
Schofield and reserve quarterback Dave Webber completed 47 of 67 passes for 556 yards and three touchdowns. The number of attempts, completions and yards are ACC records, breaking Duke quarterback Ben Bennett's record of 39 for 63 and 482 yards set last year against Wake Forest.
Schofield and Webber also set an NCAA team record for number of passes completed, breaking the old record of 43 set last season by David Wilson of Illinois and California's Rich Campbell. Schofield also set the individual ACC record for passing yardage.
One of the most important plays of the day came six minutes into the game, when safety Billy McFadden intercepted a pass from Schofield and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown.
Schofield had completed five of seven passes for 65 yards as the Deacons moved to the Maryland seven on their first possession. But defensive end Mark Wilson hit Schofield as he attempted to throw to receiver Wayne Baumgardner in the end zone.
"I was just hanging loose, and I couldn't believe he threw the ball after Mark hit him," McFadden said. "I just looked and saw the end zone. Empty field ahead."
The offensive hero was Nash, who replaced injured Charlie Wysocki (bruised left shoulder) at tailback for all but one play. He rushed for 136 yards and gained 87 yards receiving, including a 53-yard touchdown reception from Esiason before halftime that gave Maryland a 24-17 lead.
Wake (2-5, 0-3) tied the game, 24-24, midway through the third quarter on Carlos Cunnigham's one-yard run, but Nash's four-yard scoring run with 3:50 remaining in the quarter put the Terrapins ahead again. Schofield's three-yard touchdown pass to receiver Kenny Duckett tied the game in the fourth period.
With seven minutes left and Maryland leading, 38-31, linebacker Eric Wilson intercepted Schofield's pass to Phil Denfeld, formerly of Annandale High School, who set a school record with 12 receptions.
Wake got the ball back on Nash's fumble. But with 6:29 remaining and Wake at its own 24, Lendell Jones made a diving, rolling interception at the 35. Schofield was aiming at Duckett, who set a school record with three touchdown catches. Jones' interception led to Maryland's final touchdown.
Then with 1:10 remaining, Joe Aulisi intercepted another pass intended for Duckett, near midfield. From there Maryland ran out the clock.
The four interceptions were a direct result of consistent pressure the Terrapins put on Schofield and backup Webber, who completed four of five passes for 52 yards and one touchdown (Wake's first score) in a second-quarter drive while Schofield was on the bench recovering from a jarring tackle.
In all, Maryland sacked Schofield eight times for minus 60 yards, and Webber once for a two-yard loss. Wake Forest had minus 47 yards in 20 rushing attempts.
"It doesn't mean a thing with us losing today," said Schofield, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound sophomore, about his record-setting day. When asked how many of his passes he remembered, Schofield replied, "not too many. Really, only the bad ones where I had receivers open and didn't hit them, and the four interceptions."
Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne said he thought his secondary played well, despite being beaten by Duckett on three lobbed, timing-pattern passes that went for touchdowns.
"We tried all the different coverages we could think of," Claiborne said. "I don't know how much closer we could have gotten to those guys on some of those passes. They must have called 80 pass plays."
McFadden and Jones said they had fun with all the passing. "I never thought 'run' the whole game," said McFadden, whose second interception was nullified by a penalty. "All we did was line up for pass defense."
Said Jones: "I felt like a running back the whole game. I was running backward on every play. They had to be disenchanted after Billy's interception-touchdown. That's the play the defense needed for our confidence. I thought to myself during the game, win or lose, this really is fun to be part of."
Nash, who rushed for 104 yards in the Terps' only other victory, at North Carolina State, said the passing yardage was overrated. "I'm happy for the guy," Nash said. "But I'd rather have a balanced attack like we had today."
Maryland's backfield didn't seem to suffer with Wysocki's absence. He ran one play, for five yards, but three Wake tacklers hit his sore shoulder and he never returned to the lineup.